Written By: Jacob Hampton
In the world of BeamNG.drive, there are almost countless ways to use any one of the 23 currently-released stock vehicles (as well as the dozens of fan-built ‘mod’ vehicles on the BeamNG.drive forums). Crashing is the primary way to abuse a car for most players, and it is also what the simulator is most famous for. Even so, crashing is likely to be a result of a player’s mistakes while partaking in another activity, such as drifting or time-trialing. Off-roading and rock-crawling are two other popular activities for players, with some taking their interests so far as to create all-new purpose-built rock crawlers and extreme off-road modifications of the stock vehicles.
However, the four stock trucks and SUVs in BeamNG.drive – the Ibishu Hopper and the Gavril D-Series, H-Series, and Roamer – are not at all lacking when it comes to tackling the average mud bog and fording shallow rivers if equipped appropriately. All four of these late-1980s-to-early-2000s vehicles are worth $3,000-$6,000 for a stock base-trim version, and it can take less than $15,000 to build any of them to full off-road spec. But only one of them can be the ultimate in-game off-road vehicle.
The three Gavrils (1988-1994 D-Series, 1995-2001 H-Series, 1992-1999 Roamer) come standard with by far the most extensive upgrade lists of any vanilla vehicle in BeamNG.drive (and, in the case of the D-Series, the most standard configurations). They can come with any one of three engines: a 4.1-liter inline-six putting out 167 horsepower and 218 pound-feet of torque; a 4.5-liter V8 pushing 213 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque; and an even-bigger 5.5-liter V8 producing a whopping 237 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. The two V8s can both be upgraded with three separate stages of supercharging and four different engine blocks to provide about 800-1,100 horsepower.
All those horses can be connected to one of three transmissions – a 4-speed or 6-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual – with the 6-speed auto only available on the massive (and expensive) D35 Crew Cab 4WD and all the H45 variants. Three different drivetrain types – standard rear-wheel-drive, optional four-wheel-drive, and D15 and Roamer V8 Sport-exclusive all-wheel-drive – can be selected via their appropriate transfer cases. In the case of the D-Series, these powertrains can be fitted in one of six frames – standard-, extended-, or crew-cab, with sturdier heavy-duty versions of each – and three cab versions to correlate with each frame type. The H-Series, on the other hand, has a medium-duty ‘Vanster’ van body and a ‘Cabster’ cab that allows its large heavy-duty frame to hold either a flatbed, a cargo box, or an ambulance ‘upfit’. Even though they all use basic live rear axles with leaf springs for the rear wheels, a fancy double-wishbone front suspension is standard on even the cheapest versions, and solid front axles are stock for the heavier-duty D25, D35, H25, and H45 to increase load capacity.
That double-wishbone front suspension helps massively when it comes to driving this all-American two-ton (or three-ton, in the case of the D35 and H45) beasts down a bumpy trail. The D-Series’s lighter weight and smaller size compared to its bigger cousins, as well as its extremely-low base price of $3,200 means that it can easily be upgraded with a 4.5-liter V8 and four-wheel-drive and still be cheaper than the $5,000 inline-six Roamer. The Roamer does have one advantage over either of its same-frame siblings: its capacity for its size. Whereas the D-Series Crew Cab is bigger than a Vanster, the Roamer is about the same size as the D-Series it’s built upon, meaning that it can haul more passengers and cargo up a trail than the other two. The H-Series’s excess bulk and 5,000+-pound weight, highest-in-class $5,500 base price, as well as its cargo-oriented nature, handicap it significantly in off-roading. It often gets stuck far more frequently and more severely than an equivalent Roamer/D-Series, and its top-heaviness hinders cornering and stability far more than yours truly would like. It also has a giant rear overhang that often snags on rocks or mounds, making tacking tight spaces and off-road an extra challenge for the inexperienced.
The 1989-2001 Ibishu Hopper, the lone Japanese off-roader, is a curious oddball next to the big American vehicles. Whereas four-wheel- or all-wheel-drive is an extra-cost option for the Gavrils, it is the only drivetrain available for the Hopper. It starts off at $4,500 for an automatic XT-4, which is more expensive than a D15 V8 while just undercutting the more-powerful straight-six Roamer. The H-Series ‘Vanster’ comes standard with double-wishbone front suspension; the Hopper only has antiquated coil-sprung live axles on both ends. While the D-Series has an inline-six as a base option and two V8s for more power, the Hopper comes standard with a 2.5-liter, 124-horsepower inline-four in the base XT-4, with a 4.0-liter, 164-horsepower straight-six as an option for such high-end trims as the $8,000 ZXT-6 and top-of-the-line $8,750 Sport Special. Neither of these engines can be upgraded, and both use basic carburetors while the Gavrils use fancier multi-point fuel injection.
While every Gavril truck weighs at least two tons (sometimes three or four in the case of the D35 and H45), the Hopper weighs in at a piddling 3,300 pounds for the heaviest ZXT-6 version. That low weight, combined with the Hopper’s much-smaller size, standard four-wheel-drive, high ground, and torquey inline-six makes the cheapest manual XT-6 that much more terrifying of a $5,200 opponent to face on a rally stage.
The Hopper becomes exponentially more capable with just a few of its many vanilla upgrades. Off-road and heavy-duty shocks and springs are available for the little Japanese Jeep, which lift it off the ground even further and often solve most of the problems the stock base versions have. Although it still has the usual-for-the-time 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic transmission options, it has a 6-speed manual transmission for even greater control in the mud and rocks. Its convertible top (or hardtop, in some more-expensive trims) can be easily lifted off to save weight, improving off-road performance even further. Oftentimes, though, a set of off-road tires will be enough for the tiny Ibishu to trounce most trails and rocks, and it can easily do the job with less power, less fuel, and less hassle and fumbling about.